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From the Publisher
By Mike Panozzo
Mike became editor of Billiards Digest in 1980 and liked it so much that he bought the company. He has served on the Billiard Congress of America board of directors and as president of the Billiard & Bowling Institute of America.


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April: Age Is Just A Number
April 2023

This is one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to write:

I qualify for Medicare this month!

I keep trying to convince myself that this won’t be a bad thing. Age comes with benefits, I’m told. I mean, pool tournaments offer discounted tickets for seniors, right? Might start jumping into that “early boarding” line at the airport while I’m at it. And, according to Jerry Seinfeld’s fictional dad Morty, all old people steal, so I’ve got that to look forward to.

But, dang! It all goes by so fast. One minute, nuns are smacking your knuckles with rulers for hurling spit balls at a girl you really have a crush on, and the next your wife is smacking you in the back of the head with the latest issue of AARP Monthly for forgetting your wedding anniversary… again.

The same is true of your professional life. One minute you’re a 1980 college grad, butchering the pronunciation of Willie Hoppe’s name in a job interview, and the next you’re interviewing 13-year-old Savannah Easton, born 2010!

But age is a state of mind, right? You’re only as old as you feel and watching my “contemporaries” in the pool world so far this year has been nothing short of inspiring, and has me feeling pretty spry. (Apologies if you’re offended by being referred to as a “contemporary”!)

Right about the time my joints started to ache earlier in the year, I got to witness “Father Timeless” dazzle the youngsters in the One-Pocket Division at the Derby City Classic. Efren Reyes, at the ripe old age of 68, logged marathon-like hours over the course of a week, winning 10 matches and topping one-hole legends one after the next in posting a mind-bending third-place finish in the 425-player field. Afterwards, he conceded that he wasn’t sure how much longer he would compete in the event because “I’m getting old.”

Of course, Earl Strickland’s Mosconi Cup and Premier League Pool appearances at 61 may have been stretching it a tad, but his respectable 17th-place finish at the 2022 International Open (highest-finishing American) proved that “the Pearl” can still put balls in the pockets and people in the seats.

Then there’s Allison Fisher, a relative babe in my “contemporaries” cadre at just 55. After several years of semi-retirement, the Duchess has imposed doom at tournaments this year, finishing second at the Women’s World 9-Ball Championship a dozen years after her last world title final. And second again at the recent WPBA Fairfield Invitational.

“I’m competing with expectation this year, rather than just hope,” Fisher has said about her renaissance.

So, what is the trick for these ageless wonders in our sport? They all still have or have rediscovered their joy and love for the game. They still have the drive. They still have the dedication to improvement. And they feel less pressure because the expectations of others aren’t as high as their expectations of themselves. It gives them an edge.

And therein lies the lesson.

If you still have a passion for your work and the physical ability to chase that passion, there is no limit to the level of excellence you can maintain.

I’ve been asked numerous times by family and longtime friends about when I plan to retire. I tell them all the same thing: I love what I do, I love this industry and sport, and I love the people I get to work with and write about. What’s the rush? Why would I leave that behind? To take up golf and pickleball and learn canasta? I mean, if Efren and Earl and Allison can still win matches, I can still write about them.

Retire? Shoot, I’ve got the best job in the world.

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